Week 3, Day 5: Kevin Nowlin at Catholic Charities of West Tennessee

Ms. Gloria is a very precise person. She runs the food pantry at the Catholic Charities of West Tennessee (CCWTN) and it’s a very tight ship. CCWTN is a nutritional food source from single persons to families of 8. All of the food that comes to the food pantry from the Mid-South Food Bank, which supplies food to over 300 organizations in the Memphis area, is carefully inspected for current dates and such. Then all of the food is organized accordingly so that the freshest food goes out first. Every morning Ms. Gloria comes in and checks the refrigerator and freezer temperatures to make sure the food has been properly preserved overnight. Then she takes inventory of the canned and packaged food stuffs to see what needs to be put to use that day. It’s rare to see people who take such pride in the details of their job. Ms. Gloria is also one of the most kind and gentle souls you’d ever meet and you would trust your life to her only after being acquainted a few minutes.
We start the morning by making “walkabout” sacks to hand out to individuals. These are for people who have no home and no kitchen appliances/utensils but still need a hearty meal. I’m impressed to see that the first items to stock in the sacks are Ensure Vitamin and Protein shakes. When I think about giving free meals away too often my mind leads me to believe that the only free food stuffs to give away are lower-quality, bare-bones survival food. Oh, was I sorely mistaken and I’m sure glad I didn’t say that out loud. As we finish the “walkabout” bags we continue on to filling larger orders and I’m still further astonished by the thought and care that goes into the work. My reference list tells me how to fill boxes for families ranging from 2 to 8 members who do have access to a kitchen. There are fruit, vegetable, carbohydrate, and protein minimums that MUST go into each box. Immediately I take to just grabbing whatever I can reach and start filling the boxes because I want to get things quickly as to impress Ms. Gloria and Judy (another generous volunteer who has now joined our efforts). “Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I hear from across the room. I know that command all too well and I stop in my tracks. It’s unlikely that cry was intended for anyone else and I sense Ms. Gloria making her way over to me. “Mixing the same food from different vendors might make the meal taste weird. Would you want your food to taste weird?” I agree with her theory and I calmly start thinking a little more deeply about what I presumed to be an easy task. At the same time I’m given creative freedom as to what I stock. Ms. Gloria tells me to choose food that I would prefer and to stock those items when I’m in a stocking quandary. With that said, there will be quite a few people eating rich, pasta-based dishes this week. YUM!
Often I have posited myself in thought-based experiments where I have nothing. No home, no money, and no food. In my mind, I feel like I should just be grateful for anything I get (and we all should), but that’s not the philosophy at the CCWTN food pantry. I have learned a much needed respect for not just giving to people in need, but giving your best. I have also learned that it is ridiculous for me to look at the stocked shelves in my pantry and fridge and say to myself whiningly, “there’s nothing to eat!” I’m not alone; you know who you are.

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What will tomorrow bring?

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Proper documentation is key!

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Getting to know my reference list.

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